Manitoba Artist Ione Thorkelsson receives Governor General’s Award

Winnipeg glass artist Ione Thorkelsson has received the prestigious Governor General’s Arts Award in Media and Visual Arts, Saidye Bronfman Award. The only Manitoban honoured in the 2010 Awards, Thorkelsson is the first Manitoban to win the Bronfman Award, considered Canada’s most prestigious award for excellence in fine crafts.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery nominated Thorkelsson in recognition of her significant contribution to studio glass in Manitoba and Canada. On behalf of the Gallery, WAG Director Stephen Borys will formally introduce Thorkelsson at the awards ceremony to be held at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, on March 31.

“It was an honour for us to be able nominate Ione for this distinguished award,” says WAG Director Stephen Borys. “Her career has been one of great commitment, of taking risk and following instinct. Her work prompts viewers to question the potential of glass as an artistic medium. Moving well beyond functional objects, her unique creations are poetic, elegant, and provocative.”

Borys adds that the WAG has mounted a special display of six of Thorkelsson’s cast glass works which will be on view for the next few weeks.

Largely self-taught and working in relative isolation in her studio in Roseisle, Manitoba, Thorkelsson initially became known for her exquisite glass perfume bottles and vases. As her skills and confidence increased, she turned increasingly towards cast glass, drawing on the natural world (birds, bones, insects). Her footed vessels are inventive hybrid vessel/sculptures. Creatures with translucent wings, spindly legs, and odd protrusions inhabit a fantastical world of organic creations captured in a frozen moment, at once elegant, arresting, and intangible.

Her most recent work is directed at fully conceived installations such as Ossuary bones as signifiers of human absence (2007). Profoundly haunting yet uplifting, this work exploits the ephemeral nature of glass to communicate spiritual and deeply respectful concepts of death and loss.

The WAG has mounted two exhibitions of Thorkelsson’s work (in 1997 and 2005) and her work has been exhibited across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Hong Kong.
 

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